Category Archives: Book Reviews

Ship of Theseus by VM Straka aka S by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst

Hi readers.  Maybe you’ve been hearing about a book, S, by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst.

Jeanne tossed it aside last night with a frustrated sigh.  Which was okay by me.  When she brought S home from the library a couple of weeks ago I had a look, examined the acompanying envelope full of notes, whiz wheels, maps, you name it.  I thumbed through the pages of Ship of Theseus enough to think someone had abused a book unmercifully and unforgiveably.  And when she and another library lady claimed Ship of Theseus isn’t a real book I didn’t believe them.

A quick web search proved me right.  I immediately found a site where VM Straka, his life, and his other books were being discussed in depth.

Sheeze, it required another search after I’d proved myself an idiot to discover it’s all a fake.  A book, Ship of Theseus, as a centerpoint for two imaginary people studying the imaginary author and leaving notes in the margins to one another, following an imaginary mystery about the author and the book.

Well, hell.  I’m the guy who’s read Umberto Eco’s Focault’s Pendulum haf-dozen times and loved it.  I’m almost unique on the planet Earth in that regard.  And I’m the guy who chased the Lost Adams Diggings through half the archives and dusty old books and microfilms pertaining to the 19th Century.

I smiled secretly to myself, knowing I’ve read The Eyre Affair and that entire Tuesday Next series by Jasper Fforde and would read more in an eyeblink, if I couldn’t find a heartbeat to read them in.  And I’ve read all, I think, of the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels and loved them without exception.  Read Filip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series and loved it.  S wasn’t going to throw me any curves.

So I earmarked S in my mind as something I’d do when Jeanne finished it.  And last night when she declared it’s not her bag I smiled to myself and prepared to chase some devils and ghosts through the nights of the living dead I’ve noticed myself having of late.

This morning I picked it up, deciding to start by reading Ship of Theseus and ignoring the notes for a starter.  Tried, but I was continually distracted by the notes.  Because the notes in the margins are one hell of a lot more interesting and better written than the crappy novel they’re written in the margins of.

Probably Doug Doirst and JJ Abrams need to send their ideas off to Umberto Eco if they ever want to try this again.  Eco knows how to write a book.

Old Jules

2010 Space Odyssey Two – Arthur C. Clarke

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

2014 is a good year to read 2010 Space Odyssey Two so’s to help get a better perspective when you read 2061 Odyssey Three.  I’ve got 2001 Space Odyssey sitting over there asking itself why I haven’t re-read it, prior to launching into 2010.  I haven’t confided to it that it’s just too damned far off the mark and leaves me pondering whether it was pure BS.  I was a bit distracted in 2001 because of Y2K, but I’m inclined to think 2001 Space Odyssey and 1984 by George Orwell might have shared some chronological disorders.

Anyway, Clarke’s 2010, published in 1982, at least has briefcase computers.  That’s an encouraging sign.  And although men haven’t ventured beyond the moon, nor even as far as the moon in a longish while, they’re back to discussing the possibility of going to Mars, or maybe an asteroid or comet.  Humanity decided somewhere back in the late-1970s that the moon wasn’t worth the price of admission.  They’ve shot a lot of rocketships at it, set of a bomb trying to find water, but the moon has proved to be more profitable as an abstraction than a reality.  Heck, people have made more money off the moon singing, recording, writing songs about it than they’ve managed to do sending rocketships to it.  Even movies.  There’s been more money made from movies about the moon and about people going to the moon, than from people actually doing it.

So while 2010 Odyssey Two is a fun, interesting and imaginative read by a fine author, it doesn’t recommend itself well under comparisons to reality as we mostly believe we’ve experienced it, or know of other humans experiencing it.

Planet of the Apes is a lot more accurate in that regard.  I don’t know how the hell Planet of the Apes managed to happen right here under our noses without me noticing it before.  But hell, there it is.  Spang spread out all over the planet.  Russian apes killing wossname, Ukraine apes, Syrian apes killing other Syrian apes, Iraq apes, Israel apes killing Palestine apes, Chinese apes killing India Indian apes, African apes killing other African apes, and US apes indiscriminately killing all but Israeli ones.  Which establishes who the real Chosen apes are.

Arthur C. Clarke should have anticipated Planet of the Apes and written about it.  Then he wouldn’t have to be consigned to the Nostradamus and George Orwell stream of close-but-no-cigar prognostications.

Old Jules

 

J. D. Salinger needs a good horse-whipping

Five new JD Salinger books on the way

Titles expected between 2015 and 2020

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/03/new-jd-salinger-fiction-documentary

Hi readers.

When J.D. Salinger went stealth in the 1960s I didn’t think he could hold out.  I snickered to myself and said he was in there writing books and one day he’d lose his determination and drop them on me like depth charges.  I figured I could hold out longer than he could.

Eventually I began to think I had him figured wrong maybe.  That he’d either burned all his stuff and wasn’t writing more, or that he was a Class A horses ass and just wasn’t going to let any of it go public until after he died.  Then he died and for a while I was sure that now, now, now, here they’d come!

They didn’t, and when I turned 70 one of the things I had to reconcile myself to was that J.D. Salinger wasn’t gonna have anymore books during my lifetime.  Decided he was indeed a Class A horses ass.

But yesterday Jeanne sent me the link above.  Oh, yeah.  Thanks a lot, J.D. Salinger.  2015.  Hell, I went out to the RV, took some mega vitamins checked my blood pressure, then checked over the cats trying to figure out what we all need to do in order to survive until 2015.

I’m thinking it’s going to be a cliff-hanger, but we’ve got a middling good shot at lasting until the first one.  I’m okay, the cats seem okay.  I’ll gear up the cat-vitamins just to help us along, make sure they eat less hard food and more canned food, and we’ll take a run at it.  Might even squeeze it all the way to the last one in 2020.

But if J.D. Salinger happens to only be pretending to be dead I’d love to say a few choice words to him.

Old Jules

Zen etc, Persig – The Phaedrus Chatauqua – Classical and Romantic Reality

Persig’s decided to do his Chatauqua on Phaedrus.  Begins by explaining how Phaedrus saw the world in a classical reality form, explains the difference between those two ways of approaching reality.

Hydrox:  So what’s the Classical reality way of viewing cat food?  Are we cats viewing the Romantic way, or the Classical way?

Me:  Romantic.  No question about it, no compromise, even.  The Classical’s the underlying form.  The components that make up the food, the nutritional value.  The process that went into canning it.  You cats couldn’t care less about that.  Taste and odor are the immediately apparent form, the Romantic.  They’re all you care about.

Hydrox:   I like to eat the insides out of things I catch.  Leave the head and sometimes tail and legs.  I like the underlying form best.

Me:  Actually not.  If you were opening that mouse and looking at the way the digestive tract works, the circulatory system, the nerves, lungs, then you’d be getting into Classical form.  You aren’t looking at underlying function even though it’s inside.  You’re after taste, odor and texture.  There are no goods, no bads in the Classical form. No feelings.  Those are all Romantic form.

Hydrox Okay.  But you’re saying this Phaedrus guy was only interested in underlying form?  Classical form?  Is that why he was crazy?

Me:  Not really, but we’ll get into that.  Crazy doesn’t seem to confine itself to one form or another.    And the reasons Phaedrus had his insanity are a lot deeper than that.   More in the manner of the way he broke the world down to analyse it than in the form itself.

Niaid:  Off the subject, but wasn’t the kid here in the story killed in a driveby shooting a few years ago?  A long time after this story.

Me:  Yeah, he was.  Before you cats were even born.  Before Persig wrote Lila, too.

Tabby:  So are we supposed to keep that in mind while we’re doing this?  That this kid’s going to end up dead in a driveby shooting?

Me:  Not if you can keep from it, though it’s not easy to keep it separate.  What happened to that kid later on didn’t have anything to do with Phaedrus, and the way you’ll be thinking about him is Romantic.  Feelings.

Old Jules

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Hi Readers. Thanks for coming by.

Perzig’s first book jumped out at me a week-or-so ago out of a box I was packing.  Demanded I go through it yet another time this lifetime.  Which is never a job of work I take lightly.

Decided as I study on it I’d discuss it with the cats when I come to particularly studious parts.  If it seems appropriate I might share some of those discussions with you along the way.  For instance, last night he and his son, along with another couple have progressed to a camp site.  The son’s troubling him a fair amount, but Phaedrus, shadow figure of his past insanity is also peeking into the corners of his mind.

Hydrox:  What does he mean when he says, “Ghosts come back when a person hasn’t been properly buried?  Is he talking about, say, the ghost of all those chickens I keep seeing around here sometimes?”

Me:  Maybe he’s talking about that, partly.  Those chickens aren’t necessarily dead, so far as we know.  And I definitely think that’s a piece of what he’s talking about.  People lost to our lives, but without closure.  But there’s also Mehitabel.  She stayed on permanent mouse patrol all these years.  Never was properly buried.

Hydrox:  Mehitabel?  I’ve just about gotten so I don’t see her anymore.  Thanks goodness.

Niaid:  Wish you hadn’t brought her up.  Gives me the willies.

Me:  The longer we live the more ghosts we tend to accumulate, all those not-properly buried ones who passed through our lives.

Tabby:  Any chance we could bury Shiva?

Me:  You figure she’s gotten around to burying you?

Old Jules

Farnham’s Freehold, by Robert A. Heinlein 1964

Hi readers.  Here’s another one of those old early-days RAH tomes to give you some smiles, some anachronisms to feel smug about, and a couple of truly interesting things to think about.

The first part of the book is all the usual suspects, family with a bomb shelter before the bombs fall, etc.  If you haven’t read a thousand others, might as well get it done  with this one, I reckons.

But then the bombs hit, one of them dead-center.  Spang blows Farnham and his family into sometime a longish while in the future, same spot.  Then the fun starts.

The big powers destroyed themselves and most of the other non-ethnic places full of advanced white people.  So when Farnham and his white family come up for air it isn’t long before they’re discovered by the meek who inherited the earth.  Africans, mainly, in this area.  A sort of do-it-yourself African empire sitting atop the ruins of the US.

Sure, some white people survived.  Most have been adopted as slaves in a manner similar to the way the Ottomans treated captured Europeans during an earlier time.  Bred the good ones for physical and mental traits, castrated the others and put them to work.  Kept a lot of females for breeding stock, too.

So once they’re captured, Farnham and his family are forced to adapt themselves to a lifestyle most white people have spent a lot more generations becoming unaccustomed to than was good for them.  Farnham’s wife lucks into being the paramour of one of the black rulers, and being a 20th Century mom, wants her son with her.  But him being a male, her being part of the harem, he’s got to be castrated first.  Which gives her pause, but only momentarily.

And so on.

Lots of laughs in this book.  A truly fun read.

Old Jules

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert Heinlein circa 1966

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by.

Just when you think the early work of RAH is bogging itself down in frozen-in-time anachronisms he drops a mickey into your martini.  Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one such.

Suddenly he’s taking a close look at political revolutions, at the institutions of marriage, at the relationships between men and women [and why they become what they become], why revolutions don’t work usually, and how to prevent them from becoming what revolutions invariably become.  He throws in a quickie about how you can always, always come out ahead betting the horses.  And an imaginary penal colony on the moon, several generations later when the prisoners are only a tiny percentage of a population composed mainly of the descendants of prisoners.

A society where males outnumber females 10 to 1, where the earth is on the brink of starvation and depends heavily on the labors of the Luna population for wheat production, crops catapulted to the earth surface to land in the Indian Ocean.  Depleting inevitably the water-ice reservoirs on the moon with no attempt to replace, even pay for the labors of folks who physically will never be able to ‘return’ to earth.

This was a great read in 1966, the first time I read it.  2013 I read it again, and aside from pickypickypicky details, it’s still a great read. 

Sheeze, catapults on the moon hurling rocks down the gravity well turning out the equivalents of H-bomb explosions after the earth governments dig in their heels and bomb moon colonies as an alternative to replacing the water required to grow the wheat.  A computer gone intelligent.  Marriages lasting 150 years through dozens of multiple-husbands and wives, always being replaced when one dies. 

I’d rank it one hell of a lot better than Stranger in a Strange Land.

Old Jules